Last week we got to interview filmmaker Mel Eslyn for her new science-fiction film ‘Biosphere’ starring Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown. We discuss her relationship with the Duplass and her ownership in Duplass Brothers productions. The writing process, casting Sterling K. Brown and more. Hope you enjoy this interview.
AJ: Hello everybody, and welcome to Infamous Interviews at Infamous Horror. I am joined today by Mel, is it Eslyn? I feel like I’m going to say that name wrong.
Mel: No, that’s perfect.
AJ: Okay, perfect. And today we are joined today by Mel Eslyn, who is the director of the phenomenal Biosphere movie. So Mel, you worked with Mark Duplass before on Language Lessons. Is that how you kind of got involved with Biosphere at all, from that relationship you had with Mark?
Mel: I actually, I run Mark’s company, Duplass Brothers, and have for the last 10 years.
AJ: Oh, wow.
Mel: Yeah, Mark and I have been working very steady steadily together. Our first project was Your Sister’s Sister, and then immediately followed that with Safety Not Guaranteed. And then since then, we’ve just kind of been creative collaborators. And then I met Jay and that worked. And then at some point they were like, “Take over our films and now run our company.” And I got sidetracked. And then at some point was like, “Oh yes, I meant to be a director, not running Duplass Brothers.” And so then we segued back to this and said, “Let’s make a movie.”
AJ: So since you’ve been working with Mark and Jay for so long, you know how unique and fresh their takes on stories can be, even if it’s kind of a familiar story. Even though Biosphere is not a familiar story at all, it feels like it’s kind of a fresh take on stuff for we’ve been exposed to recently, right? And when he came to you with this story, how did you react when you were reading the script for it?
Mel: Well, Mark came to me with just a couple ideas. And Mark comes up with the best ideas but they’re always half formed. And so I always like to say, I finish his sentence. So he brought some ideas and I was like, “You are hitting on some really… There’s space to hit on some really interesting themes there. And I love so much of this and I feel like there’s so much more I can even expand upon there.” And so we went away for a weekend and just kind of threw all our ideas out, and then I went away and read the first draft of the script or wrote it. And then we kind of went back and forth and just put a lot of ourselves in it. But it’s so hard to talk about without giving so much away. And we’re trying to-
Without spoiling it. Yeah.
Yeah. We’re trying to hold so much back just to retain that authentic experience and allow the conversation about the film that happened after seeing it verse before.
AJ: Right. Yeah.
Mel: It’s so hard answer those questions, but there was something in the kernel of the first hint of an idea that I could see more. And thankfully Mark was on board with where I wanted to take it.
AJ: Right. It has to be like a popcorn bag in the microwave. At first a kernel pops, and then it just keeps popping and exploding. And now it’s all done when you two get together to discuss. So Biosphere and how it… And talking about it hopefully without spoiling it, that kind of plot twist in there with Mark and Sterling’s characters, that has to be a subject you can’t take lightly when it happens, right? So how did you guys go intimately into that realm, per se?
Mel: It is very hard to answer without talking about it. But yeah, it is. There are some big themes in here that I think are… I definitely am somebody who likes to push the boundaries. And I think that we as humans will evolve by continuing to redefine ourselves, and continue to analyze ourselves, and strive to learn and expand those boundaries and expand those definitions. So that was a lot of what came into play here, which doesn’t always feel safe to everybody. I think there’s new territory here that I was trying to reach for people who might not normally sign up for this movie. And so hence why there are things that we’re trying to keep under wraps because I want people to go on that journey and to suddenly end up somewhere they might never have sought out, and to see how that feels and to learn. So I don’t know. Oh, there’s so much I can say when I can.
AJ: And how did the casting come about for this? And especially after you landed Sterling K. Brown, who is just phenomenal in this. He gives almost like an Oscar worthy performance. If not, he does give an Oscar worthy performance in Biosphere. So how was it watching him behind the camera?
Mel: Oh my God, it was amazing. He is the most precise actor I think I have ever worked with, where he’s so in control of himself physically and emotionally. And he can hit these emotional marks or physical marks over and over again. There’s just something in him. It’s just the word I keep going back to his control. He’s so in control.
AJ: He’s like a thespian almost the way he performs.
Mel: Oh, yeah. Oh, absolutely. I mean, I’m such a stickler on dialogue and Mark tends not to be, he likes to keep it fast and loose, and we both respect each other’s processes in that way. And I can go that way and he can come my way. But then Sterling shows up and is like, “I spent all night memorizing these lines. I liked, this is great. I want to stay on book,” or whatever. And so that was really interesting for us to have. We’re so used to a lot of improv, but he really respected the script, he respected our dialogue, and really just put so much thought behind every line.
AJ:Well, Mel, we got to wrap things up shortly, but one last question for you. What is next for you after Biosphere?
Mel: Well, I have, at Duplass we have a ton of things in the works, half which I can’t even talk about, but we have our latest documentary Last Stop Larrimah hits HBO in October. I do have a secret television series that I’ve shot that we haven’t announced yet. So I’m really excited for that. That’ll be my first time show running, and directed all the episodes and created with Mark. So that’s, I think, the most exciting thing that I’m hoping to get out soon.
AJ: Well, Mel, thank you so much for joining us in Infamous Horror and Infamous Interview. It’s been really fun, and congratulations on the film.